Ricciardo ‘didn’t see’ Albon – calls Suzuka crash ‘singular moment’

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Daniel Ricciardo says he simply didn’t see Alex Albon moving up alongside him just before the pair’s contact and crash on the opening lap of the Japanese GP.

Ricciardo launched his race from P11 on the grid, three spots ahead of Albon.

However, the RB driver opted to start on the medium compound which put him at a disadvantage at the outset in terms of grip compared to several soft-shod drivers positioned directly behind him.

“We definitely got gobbled up on that medium,” Ricciardo explained. “It was weird because the cars in front of us look like they got off the line well, so it just looked like Yuki and I didn't have the grip that we anticipated.

“As soon as we launched, I could see Bottas and Hulkenberg just split us and go around. And then into [Turn] 1, I was in the middle, with Yuki and an Alpine, so then by Turn 2 I thought 'alright, let's just settle' - and as soon as I got on the throttle, I was still struggling.

“Then I think Stroll was on my outside. I was trying to hold him off.

“As I've started to come back for [Turn] 3, then Albon's there. I watched his on-board [camera]. I don't even know if he wanted to be there. But his traction was so much better on the soft that he was like, 'Well, there's space,' - until there wasn't.

"I didn't see him. I always assume maybe someone is there, it's lap one, so I never tried to use the full width of the track and be completely ignorant. But there was obviously not enough room.”

In hindsight, Ricciardo reckons his opening lap would have unfolded quite differently had he started on the soft compound tyre.

“All things considered, if we could wind back the clock an hour, I would start on the soft,” he said.

“But for the record, I wanted to be on the medium. And that's not something I fought against. But knowing what we know now the soft would have been a lot better for us.”

Ricciardo has endured a troubled start to his 2024 campaign. He’s been comprehensively outpaced by Tsunoda and after four rounds, he has yet to score a single championship point.

However, the 34-year-old dismissed any notion that his botched race at Suzuka was an extension of his poor form, describing the incident as “just one of those things”.

“Today is [a] singular moment,” he said. “I don't look at today and think 'oh, man this year,' like... 'when it rains, it pours,' or whatever. I feel it was just one of those things.

“We know that [with] 24 races, it's likely that maybe I'm involved in another lap one incident, there's just probability, these things kind of happen. It obviously sucks when they do.

“But I don't look at it any more than today being a kind of singular incident.

“Of course, [it] would have been nice to get a race under our belt and try to show a little bit of something that I felt we were starting to show yesterday. We'll do that in China. I'm actually testing on Tuesday. So the laps that I missed today - I'll get back on Tuesday.”

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